NEW YORK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in New York on Sunday to attend the 71st UN General Assembly where he plans to highlight gross human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir.

Relations between India and Pakistan, already at a record low, worsened on Sunday when suspected militants attacked an Indian military base in held Kashmir and killed 17 soldiers.

Although Pakistan strongly condemned the attack, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh immediately put the blame on Islamabad.

“Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such,” he tweeted.

A Pakistani diplomat at the United Nations called it “a very reckless statement” and drew attention to India’s “ruthless military campaign” in the Valley where Indian security forces had killed 104 civilians and injured more than 10,000 since early July.

Despite these atrocities, the popular uprising against the Indian rule, which began in early July, has continued. Almost daily protests against the Indian rule and India’s ruthless use of force to stop the protests have drawn international attention, causing almost every major human rights organisation to demand access to the Valley. India, however, has rejected all such demands.

Prime Minister Sharif is likely to devote a large part of his address to the UN General Assembly for exposing Indian human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir. He will also urge the world body to intervene in Kashmir to enforce UN resolutions that promised a plebiscite in the disputed territory back in 1948 but were never implemented.

India is expected to raise the Baloch issue to counter Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, claiming that Pakistan too is guilty of similar human rights violations in the province.

Pakistan is likely to respond by asserting that India is responsible for promoting militancy in Balochistan.

The General Assembly is the United Nations’ principal representative body and it brings together all the 193 members on one platform to discuss all pressing issues, including those that could lead to war if left unattended.

And Kashmir is top on the list of such issues, along with Palestine, but has remained unresolved since 1948, when the world body pledged to resolve it.

The 71st session of the UNGA commenced on Sept 13 but the general debate will begin on Sept 20, when US President Barack Obama will also address the world body.

Other world leaders will follow, highlighting the issues that they consider important enough for a global platform.

The agenda for the 71st session includes issues relating to: refugees and migrants; sustainable development goals and anti-microbial resistance in the context of the Zika crisis.

The UNGA will also review issues that have been on its agenda for some time, such as the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and Security Council reforms.

Pakistan will also watch the debate on refugees with keen interest. For the last 35 years, Pakistan has hosted more than three million Afghan refugees and it now wants the world body to help resolve this issue.

Published in Dawn September 19th, 2016